Glacier Bay National Park is one of many gems on the string of breathtaking sights in Alaska’s Inside Passage. Most people who make a trip will do so as part of an Alaska cruise. Those cruise itineraries typically include a stop at Icy Strait Point, a locally-owned and operated cruise port near the small community of Hoonah. From here, you can set out on one of several Icy Strait Point excursions that take you into Glacier Bay – but how do you choose which one to book?
If you’re struggling to choose between Icy Strait Point shore excursions, I’m here to help. I spent three summers working for one of the major cruise companies, and during that time I had to make recommendations for excursions for thousands of Alaska cruisers. So I decided to use that knowledge to come up with a list of the best Icy Strait Point excursions.
I put these Icy Strait Point cruise excursions in order based on what I know Alaska visitors will love. I also keep in mind some of the other tips on choosing Alaska cruise excursions I’ve previously shared. For each excursion, I list which cruise companies offer that one – so you can see whether your cruise is on the list. Read on for the best Icy Strait Point excursions for your upcoming Alaska cruise.
While I personally do not support the mega-ship cruise industry due to its negative impact on local economies, damage caused to the environment, and evasive tax practices, I created this resource to allow you to make your own choice. Please consider booking a small-ship cruise instead, carbon offsetting, and buying local souvenirs to help reduce the negative impact of your Alaska cruise.
In this post, I promote travel to a national park that is the Lingít Aaní of the Huna Tlingit peoples. With respect, I make a formal land acknowledgment, extending my appreciation and respect to the past and present people of these lands. To learn more about the peoples who call these lands home, I invite you to explore Native Land.
This post was originally published in March 2020, and was updated in May 2021 and October 2021.
The Best Icy Strait Point Cruise Excursions
Given how many cruise companies offer a number of interesting and unique shore excursions in Icy Strait Point, it was hard to choose which ones to recommend. But, I’ve weighed the options and consider these nine to be the best Icy Strait Point and Hoonah cruise excursions. Here’s how I calculated the scores:
- I went through all of the Icy Strait Point excursions and chose the ones I think are worth doing (the V factor 😂)
- I looked at the number of cruise companies offering that excursion in 2022.
- I force ranked the excursions by uniqueness. (That means each excursion gets its own number, no ties)
- I gave each excursion a boost or deduction for being a good value based on the “Money-to-Time” Math.
- Finally, I added up the metrics to come up with a final score.
- To break ties, I used top Uniqueness score, since I want to encourage you to try new things in Alaska!
Here’s my list of the best Icy Strait Point excursions:
|Tour Name||# of Cruises|
|1||Hoonah Sightseeing |
& Tribal Dance
|2||In Alaska’s Wildest Kitchen||8||7||0||15|
|3||Spasski River Valley Wildlife |
& Bear Search
|4||Glacier Bay Flightseeing||2||9||-1||10|
|5||Chichagof Island Wilderness Hike||7||4||-1||10|
|7||Discovering Birds of Hoonah||6||3||0||9|
|8||Heli, Bike & Hike Adventure||1||6||0||7|
|9||Adventure Park |
& ZipRider Combo
While not everyone will agree with this list – and it wasn’t the original list I wrote back for the 2020 season (ha!). But I feel confident that this list is both impartial but also informed by my expert advice. Now let’s dive into each one!
1. Hoonah Sightseeing & Tribal Dance
When comparing all of the Alaska cruise excursions in Icy Strait Point, there’s one that stands out as truly special: the Hoonah Sightseeing and Tribal Dance offering that almost every cruise company provides. Icy Strait Point is owned by the Hoonah Tlingit tribe, so this is a chance to learn about the culture and lifestyle of the locals who are hosting you on their land.
While this excursion doesn’t have the same wow factor as flightseeing or adrenaline-inducing zip-lining, it’s by far the most culturally immersive experience you can have in Icy Strait Point – and possibly on your whole Alaska trip.
2. In Alaska’s Wildest Kitchen
Foodie cruisers, this one’s for you! I try to include a food tour on every one of the posts in this series; I believe food is one of the best ways to experience culture. Since I already pointed out that Icy Strait Point is a unique cultural destination, what better way to experience it than on a cooking class excursion?
This excursion you’ll sample some of the food Alaskans love to enjoy, learn from a local chef about how to filet and prepare fresh Alaskan seafood, and then try your hand preparing some for yourself. As a souvenir, you’ll get recipe cards so you can try to prepare these meals once you return home.
3. Spasski River Valley Wildlife & Bear Search
Wildlife is one of the main draws for visitors who want to cruise in Alaska. Unfortunately, the biggest ships have a tendency to scare off a lot of the wildlife you hope to see. To increase your chances, you need to get off the big boat, get on two feet, and get out in the Alaska wild. While this cruise excursion isn’t totally unique – you can see bears elsewhere in Alaska – it’s a good chance to guarantee that experience at a good value.
This excursion is a gentle walking tour that lasts 2.5 to 3 hours depending on the wildlife you see. After a short bus ride to the Spasski River Valley, you’ll take a guided tour along a boardwalk and gravel path into a habitat that Alaskan brown bear are known to frequent. There’s no guarantee, of course, but that’s part of what makes the excursion an adventure! You can potentially also see bald eagles, Sitka black-tailed deer, and otters.
4. Glacier Bay Flightseeing
Most Alaska cruises make their way into the waterways of Glacier Bay National Park, but I always think that flightseeing is a great way to experience the landscape from a more mind-blowing perspective.
On this specific excursion, you’ll fly from Hoonah across Point Adolphus, over Glacier Bay, and along Brady Glacier. You’ll get to see a massive ice cap, learn about the geomorphology that formed Glacier Bay, and try to spot whales on the waterways below you during the flight. This is a breathtaking way to see Glacier Bay – and why it’s the best Icy Strait Point cruise excursion.
This was originally my #1 recommendation from Icy Strait Point, but it isn’t offered by many cruise companies and is actually more expensive than it should be (based on my Money-to-Time math) so it fell down the list for 2022.
5. Chichagof Island Wilderness Hike
Alaska is full of epic hikes, and you might want to experience some of that for yourself on your Alaska cruise. The Chichagof Island wilderness hike excursion is a good opportunity. After a drive through (and out of) town, you’ll leave the crowds behind and head onto Alaska native-owned lands where you’ll disembark and start your wilderness hike. The trail is a moderate 2-mile hike that includes panoramic views of Chichagof Island and the surrounding waterways.
This post ranks highly on the list because despite its relative lack of uniqueness, it’s a good value and offered by a lot of cruise companies on their various Alaska cruise itineraries.
6. Halibut Fishing
I get a lot of questions about fishing in Alaska. So, when I see a good Alaska cruise excursion for fishing, I recommend it! Typically, I recommend halibut fishing charters in Seward, but if your itinerary doesn’t allow that, here’s an alternative. This Icy Strait Point excursion is a good value and widely offered, which is why it ranks so highly on my list for 2022 Alaska cruises.
On this 3.5-hour charter, you’ll board a locally-operated boat and head out onto the waters of Icy Strait. Purchase your fishing license, put your line in, and hope for good fishermen’s luck! If you do have the fortune to hook a halibut, the boat company will ship it home to you.
7. Discovering Birds of Hoonah
This Alaska cruise excursion might not be for everyone, but if you love wildlife (and especially birding) this widely-offered excursion might be the one for you in Icy Strait Point.
On this cruise excursion, a local guide will take you out to spot dozens of species of perching birds, seabirds, ducks, gulls, and bald eagles. You’ll be provided with binoculars and other gear you might need. And best of all: the proceeds of this excursion support the Juneau Audubon Society.
8. Heli, Bike & Hike Adventure
Who Offers This Icy Strait Point Shore Excursion? Carnival is the only one!
Despite it being last on the list, I personally love this excursion as it offers the opportunity to both get up in the air and burn off some of those ship calories you’ve been consuming (yes, they count!). Unfortunately, only one company offers it which handicapped it in the rankings for 2022. (In 2020-2021, more companies offered it, so hopefully, that will return for future seasons.)
On this 2- to 3-hour excursion, you’ll board a helicopter, cruise up to the top of the mountain, unload your bikes, and ride back down. Along the way, most guides stop to take you on short hikes for even better views. It’ll be hard to keep your eyes on the trail with all the epic scenery around you!
9. Adventure Park & ZipRider Combo
Zip-lining is so in right now! I mean, you can zip-line in many ports around the world, so is it any surprise that there’s an epic zip-lining experience in Alaska? Or that it’s the largest in the world – kind of like Alaska is the largest state?
That said, it’s not exactly unique to encounter these kinds of excursions, so it doesn’t rank particularly highly on my personal list of the best Icy Strait Point cruise excursions. (It is semi-widely available and a good value though, as points in its favor.)
This is a 90-minute excursion that includes an obstacle course – dubbed the ‘Adventure Park,’ – made up of a log bridge, climbing planks, fishermen’s net, and more. After you successfully conquer that, you’ll hook into the first of six zip-lines. You’ll descend from an elevation of 1,330 feet back to sea level along those six zips – at times you may be going as fast as 60 miles per hour and at heights of 300 feet above the ground!
(This Icy Strait Point excursion is not for those who are faint of heart or afraid of heights!)
Which of these Icy Strait Point excursions will you book? If you have questions or comments, let me know below or join me in my Alaska Travel Tips Facebook Community!
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Photo credits: Icy Strait Point building (L) – Moira Dunworth; Glacier Bay flightseeing (R) – Joseph; salmon on grill – Didriks; Tlingit tribal dance – James Brooks; halibut fisherman – Bryan Wilkins; all via Flickr